We decided to take a different approach to the drive today where usually an early kick off was a necessity, today we opted for splitting the team and ticking off a few boxes and freeing up room in the Micra. – Reza escorted Thomas off to the Isfahan bazaar to purchase a tea set, carpet and have them shipped to the UK. Rhys and Oli remained at the hotel to back up phones, camera memory cards and update the online presence, recovering for the long drive through the desert. Thomas, securing deal returned to hotel by motorbike, picked up the shisha pipe purchased in Turkey and hurried back to the bazaar to send everything off in one package.
By coincidence, mosque call to noon prayer kicked off as Oli and Rhys’ internet capacity was reached, showing up red warnings on laptops and smartphones in Farsi. We took this as a bad omen, unsure of what the Farsi was trying to indicate (worries of the Iranian Internet firewall) and hurriedly packed up for the off, awaiting Reza and Thomas’ return to the hotel. Packed up and ready for the off, we came across a French tour group who were also heading through Iran, and compared highlights of their trip through, notably without a tour guide. The one notable difference between tours was how much more hospitable the Iranian people had been for them – going out of their way to offer them accommodation, food, and any help they might need; a certain filter through Reza that we never got to see.
Space freed up in the back of the Micra, we moved onto Damghan – a midpoint town planned by IruntoIran, for the sake of reasonable journey times across Iran. Shortly after exiting Isfahan, we were pulled over by a black Mercedes – hazards on and gesturing us to slow down. A family had seen some form of report or news on the Mongol Rally going through Iran and upon spotting our car, simply wanted to meet us, and give us a gift of a large box of Nougat. We were quite surprised by this chance meeting – the hospitality of Iranians towards foreign travellers seems to know no bounds. We said our goodbyes and thanks to the family and continued on towards Qom and the “Shrine to Shrine” highway. More intense heat poured through the windows as we drove across the desert plains, sighting pilgrims on their way to Mashhad from Qom for the Imam Reza’s birthday, and our first herd of camels – a sight rather early on for the rally, geographically speaking. Damghan drew in closer as the night sky filled out with the galactic belt once again.
Reza took this opportunity to find out more about UK life and traditions, specifically weddings and funerals, and how they compared to Iranian and Islamic traditions. A quote from Iranian’s budding tour guide,
“There is a reason why women wear white at a wedding, and men wear dark suits. For the wife, her brightest days are ahead of her in starting a family and having security in her life. For the husband however, his darkest days are ahead of him, becoming his wife’s servant, having to do whatever she says.”
A quote we all hurried took note of for passing onto related events in our collective futures within the team.
Damghan provided us motel accommodation of sorts; a spacious room and good showering facilities were a welcome sight from the hot desert roads. Thomas ordered in pizza from a local fast food shop, and we took the time to relax in the peace and quiet of our room.